I intend to explore something here that I experience myself and also something that I perceive in others. It’s around the fine line between taking care of ourselves from a place of wholeness or using ‘self care’ as the reason not to move towards uncomfortable experiences, even and especially if those experiences will bring growth.
All too often I will take the easier option, given the choice. And all too often I don’t have the growthful experience I need in order for my version of wholeness to deepen into Itself. I’ll give an example; I’m participating in an intensive program offering the deep and transformational soul work that I LOVE and instead of staying out all night I choose to come in early and be in bed because I tell myself this is actually what I need more – to be kind and gentle with myself.
Whilst this could well be true most or some of the time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice if claiming my wholeness by working with the dark and other Mystery-led practices really is as important to me as I declare it to be. By being out of my comfort zone is usually, though not always, how I have experienced my most significant encounters with soul and how I have received deeply transformative messages that have led to huge life-changes including, I might add, feeling more well and vibrant than I did before, hence not needing so much rest. So the key then is to know when it’s right to meet the difficult stuff, even when we might feel lousy. I would also suggest that our feeling lousy is part of the strategy for keeping us ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’. There’s a familiar part of me and of most of us that will hold me/us back from becoming a fuller version of ourselves and psycho-somatic responses, including tiredness, is one way that can play out. We need to be on our toes, right?
Now, I don’t always need to have huge life-changing messages and encounters but I do wish to know myself as fully integrated and whole as I can be in this life – in order that I can serve in the best way I can. I believe this is what Life wants of me and that is why I want to be discerning in my moment by moment choices.
As an extreme example, in many traditions and cultures – most of which are now gone to us of the modern era, though not all – any possible soul encounter (a numinous experience where we come into contact with something or someone either from the physical realm or the Otherness such as the dreams, or in nature, that have a profound impact on our psyche and leave us changed forever) that led to ones initiation would involve not only leaving ones comfort zone (the village, their families, food, fire, even water in some traditions) but there might also, at times, be the risk of not coming back to ones people. I am talking about death here. It was meant to be an endurance. It was supposed to be an ordeal. If it was easy and the person remained in their place of comfort the shift in the psyche that was imperative for the initiation to take place would not happen.
So, here I am offering soul initiation processes to people which for me means there is often a need for some discomfort to be experienced, for some ‘digging’ deep to happen in order that enough of a shift takes place that they feel more fully in their wholeness than they did when they arrived. What I am often faced with is a person who has come to me because they’re tired of their patterns of pushing themselves and are exhausted, depleted and in need of nurture and rest. Here lies my quandary. I don’t wish to, nor will I, push a person into ‘doing the work’ if that’s not what they feel ready for or what they want. And yet, why have they come to me if they want mostly nurture and rest? I’m a Soul Initiation Facilitator, a Wilderness Rites of Passage Guide, a Threshold Midwife (I mean the threshold between worlds). My role is to find a balance, a way of inviting them into a deeper conversation with themselves where they find their place of knowing, their autonomy around their needs, without losing sight of their obvious desire to live more fully on this earth in order to be in service in a way that is aligned to their soul’s purpose.
This isn’t an easy thing to navigate yet I am propelled into an elder archetype in these situations and I will offer guidance from a place of fierce love. As in, “Life needs you to do the underworld work if you are to step more fully into your wholeness. This means facing the deepest, darkest aspects of yourself and then come out the other side renewed and ready, if not a little confounded and askew. Are you in?”
I do not and will never negate self care. It is one of the most radical and much needed gifts we can offer ourselves as human beings, particularly in these times of adrenalin-fuelled action. I myself will make sure I do this regularly, but I’m also starting to recognise where I’m leaning too far into that soft bed of comfort as a way of protecting myself from getting into the gritty, often challenging aspects of my psyche. When it leans too far into the realms of the comfort zone and no inner growth is happening then I would suggest we need to look more closely. I would also suggest that it is possible to do the soul work whilst offering ourselves self care. How about that for a balanced perspective? Maybe it’s even possible to take the self care-whilst-doing-something into our daily lives, and not just when we’re ‘doing’ soul work……….I offer this to you as the very thing where healing can happen. We/I tend to separate ‘doing’ and self care, so why not offer ourselves the two together?
I hear myself saying this and take it in for myself – for my own sweet longing to land fully in wholeness so that I can offer this back as a gift to my people. As it states on my homepage. “Take my hand, we’ll journey together…….”